By Blaine Cardilli
Everybody talks “woodsmanship” and how to develop it but we all know it takes years of experience afield to become familiar with the ways and workings of nature. You don’t think much about it; you just one day wake up and realize you’ve developed an understanding of your surroundings.
“Kip” Sylvester and I met when we were both about 13 and hit it off like nobody’s business. He was the cousin of my best friend and the afternoon that he showed up, the three of us immediately made plans to go camping by the river behind my house. That night we made a campfire, cooked hot dogs, and talked. We drifted off to the wailing of a pair of loons somewhere down river. As I closed my eyes, my heart was as full as a teenager’s could be, for I was with my “brothers”.
As days turned to months, Kip and I forged the type of bond known only to those who have spent countless hours together in the woods. We learned to hunt together without the benefit of adult peers to show us the ropes so we learned by trial and error. We cut our teeth on red squirrels and soon graduated to grays, rabbits, pheasant, and grouse. As the years brought us into our late teens, we began hunting deer and predators, the latter of which became a special passion to us both. We developed a system where one would call, and the other shoot and began piling up the coyotes.
Everybody talks “woodsmanship” and how to develop it but we all know it takes years of experience afield to become familiar with the ways and workings of nature. You don’t think much about it; you just one day wake up and realize you’ve developed an understanding of your surroundings. Kip is one of those people who has grown immensely as an outdoorsman and once we reached adulthood and began drifting apart, I went towards the professional outdoor industry while he stayed focused on the simple outdoor life.
We’re now both pushing 60 and though I’ve done alright as a deer hunter in Maine these past 40 years, Kip can’t remember ever not getting his deer, most of which have been bucks. Recently we had a conversation and he shared with me many of the methods he’s employed over the years that have brought him continued success. In a world of high-tech gear and instant gratification, I thought the readers might want to know how an “old school” hunter kills deer consistently, year after year, especially in Maine.
Three days into this season’s gun opener he had a buck down at 7 a.m. and told me about the hunt. His first priority is always his clothing. Everything gets washed in scent-free detergent, dried with fresh Earth dryer sheets, and put in a storage bag. He takes a scent-free shower, dresses at the hunting spot, and his boots see only the woods. He sprays his boots with oil of Anise, then sprays his hands liberally with fresh earth liquid and rubs the solution all over his face and head, and finishes by spraying his clothes.
Kip uses an old .30-30 and after sighting in is careful not to use solvents or oils on it. He simply runs dry patches through it and even the gun gets it’s share of earth spray. When it comes to the hunt, Kip is like me in that he prefers hunting from a chair and this year he sat by a stone wall in open woods. Once seated, he bends down and after digging through the dirt with his hands, he rubs it into his clothes and he’s ready to go. He used his old can call to produce bleats and saw a buck trotting right to him, followed by twin spike-horns and a doe. Remaining motionless, he let the deer come.
Kip told me that in all his years his longest shot has been 50 yards, always from the ground, and this hunt proved to be far less as the buck walked to within 10 yards of him, oblivious to the fact he was there. As it began to inch closer, he raised his rifle and dropped him in his tracks. The other deer didn’t know what happened and stayed nearby until Kip decided to stand up. Season after season, this grizzled man gets his deer, showing me I need to slow down and smell the dirt myself!